Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Vettel knows he has no chance – his Renault is down 130 HP to Mercedes

    CVC's Mackenzie backs Ecclestone in court

  • Vettel not sure Red Bull can catch Mercedes for 2015
  • Ramirez slams Perez for wrong 'attitude'
  • Ferrari seat 'not the plan for 2015' – Bianchi
  • Dominant Mercedes to lose 'extreme' Fric advantage
  • Mercedes has 'duty' to let drivers race – Head
  • Hockenheim ticket discount offer backfires

CVC's Mackenzie backs Ecclestone in court
(GMM) F1 owner CVC's chief Donald Mackenzie on Wednesday gave Bernie Ecclestone a boost.

Mackenzie, CVC's co-founder and chairman, has not always seen eye-to-eye with F1's controversial 'supremo', and has even warned that Ecclestone risks expulsion over the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery affair.

On Wednesday, Mackenzie was called as a witness in the Munich trial.

He backed Ecclestone's defense.

Prosecutors claim 83-year-old Ecclestone bribed the now jailed Gribkowsky to the tune of $44 million so as to sell the sport to a preferred buyer and retain power.

But Mackenzie said Ecclestone in fact never asked that part of CVC's deal would involve keeping him as chief executive.

"At no point did he ever say that he expected that," he told the court.

In fact, Mackenzie said, Ecclestone had told him: "If you want me, then I might be available."

"We showed him a services contract because he never showed any interest and did not negotiate," German reports quote Mackenzie as testifying.

Mackenzie also backed the claims of Ecclestone's lawyers about Gribkowsky's character, depicting him as "arrogant and very self-confident".

And he also denied that Ecclestone was happy if CVC bought F1's commercial rights for a low price so long as he would remain in power.

Mackenzie recalled when CVC, during negotiations, valued the rights at a billion dollars.

"He (Ecclestone) began to laugh heartily and said I should not waste his or the shareholders' time," he said.

Mackenzie said Ecclestone later slid a piece of paper across the table containing the words: "2 billion".

Vettel not sure Red Bull can catch Mercedes for 2015
(GMM) World champion Sebastian Vettel is not sure Red Bull can catch up with Mercedes by 2015.

Red Bull boss Dr Helmut Marko said at Silverstone last weekend that, "In 2015, we want to be on par with Mercedes."

After taking part in the post-British grand prix test on Wednesday, German Vettel said: "The gap to Mercedes is very big.

"Until the beginning of next season we will try to catch up," he is quoted by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport, "and I hope that we are able to improve and get closer."

Vettel is also quoted as saying by Speed Week: "While we have made significant progress since the winter, the opponents also are not sleeping.

"We expect to make further steps over the coming months, and towards the end of the year we should be in a better position to judge where we stand for 2015."

Ramirez slams Perez for wrong 'attitude'
(GMM) Jo Ramirez, McLaren's former long-time team manager, has slammed fellow Mexican Sergio Perez.

McLaren ousted Perez, 24, after a single season at the end of last year in favor of Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen.

"As a driver Sergio was actually not bad (at McLaren)," Ramirez, a former advisor to Perez, told "I think he was also getting better.

"Sergio was just not good enough as a person. He didn't really cooperate with the team, he was too cocky. His attitude was very bad," he claimed.

"He was unpopular with the engineers, with everyone. I often criticize him in the media, but I do not criticize him as a driver. He's a good driver.

"It's such a shame," Ramirez continued. "I was at the Jerez test this year and spent time with McLaren and Sauber, and no one was able to say something good about Sergio.

"They all say that he needs to change his attitude if he wants to stay in formula one."

Ferrari seat 'not the plan for 2015' – Bianchi
(GMM) Jules Bianchi staked a claim on a Ferrari race seat on Wednesday, setting the pace at the post-British grand prix Silverstone test.

Drafted in by Ferrari to replace Kimi Raikkonen after the Finn's high-speed crash last Sunday, Frenchman and Marussia driver Bianchi looked as impressive as Fernando Alonso had been in practice last weekend in the same F14-T car.

Moreover, Bianchi's 1 minute 35.2 lap time was more than a second faster than Raikkonen – who has notably struggled in 2014 – had managed in Silverstone practice.

Although clearly part of Ferrari's future plans, the 24-year-old played down the significance of his Silverstone speed, insisting differing wind conditions between the race weekend and the test played a significant role.

"But it's always good to do some good lap times and to be consistent," he admitted. "Obviously it is much better to do a good job and a good lap time."

Nonetheless, Raikkonen is firmly under contract for 2015, and Bianchi acknowledged that a race seat with the Maranello team "is not the plan for next year".

Another major talking point at Silverstone on Wednesday was the prototype 18-inch low-profile tire being tested by Pirelli and Lotus.

In charge was Lotus tester Charles Pic, and he said the tire seemed "more nervous" than its 13-inch counterpart.

"These are just a prototype concept," explained Pirelli's Paul Hembery.

"But if the teams decided that they wanted us to proceed in this direction, we have the capability to come up with a production-ready version in a comparatively short space of time," he added.

A photo of the tire in action can be seen here.

Dominant Mercedes to lose 'extreme' Fric advantage
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton left Silverstone without making a single comment to the media after testing on Wednesday.

He might have been advised to steer a wide course around the 'Nico Rosberg is not German' controversy.

But there could be another issue he – and Mercedes – were keen to swerve.

The FIA's Charlie Whiting has dropped a bombshell on F1 teams, warning them in writing that systems mimicking illegal active suspension – commonly referred to as 'Fric' – probably are in fact illegal.

The concept has become so widespread that it is believed every single 2014 car features it.

"It came as a surprise. It's not based on any team action," McLaren team boss Eric Boullier told reporters on Wednesday when asked about Whiting's intervention.

"It's an FIA action."

Before Boullier's comments, it might have been assumed that a rival team complained to Whiting about Fric, because the iteration aboard Mercedes' ultra-dominant 2014 is considered to be more advanced than most others.

"I hear the Mercedes system is very complicated," Marussia driver Max Chilton told Britain's Sky at Silverstone, "so it could affect them more."

For the moment, the FIA is not actually banning the system, but in the technical directive, Whiting warned that teams could theoretically begin to lodge protests against their rivals, starting at Hockenheim next weekend.

So some teams might simply dodge the controversy by removing 'Fric'.

"We thought we might as well try the car and see what we could do without it," Chilton said after Wednesday's test action, "in case it goes that way."

The Briton said the backmarking Marussia did not feel too different with 'Fric' off the car.

But that could be because the Marussia system is not as "extreme" as some.

"I think some teams may have been extreme," agreed McLaren's Boullier. "This is maybe why the FIA is questioning the legality of this system.

"I don't know the secrets of the designs of the other teams," he added. "I think for most of the teams it would not be a game-changer.

"There is maybe a couple of teams who have been extreme and obviously who could be potentially in trouble to switch back to a non-connecting system," said Boullier.

Theoretically, the 'Fric' issue could be good news for Mercedes' rivals, and very bad news for the ultra-dominant German team.

"After what the FIA has said," Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is quoted by Speed Week, "I can surmise that some cars will be more affected than others if there are any possible changes."

Mercedes' big gap, however, is probably safe, according to Michael Schmidt, the respected correspondent for Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"Mercedes may have to give up some of its advantage," he said, "but the gap to the chasing pack is so big that the Silver Arrows is not in trouble. Especially as Red Bull has a similarly-good system."

Mercedes has 'duty' to let drivers race – Head
(GMM) Patrick Head has applauded Mercedes for letting its drivers race in 2014.

Williams co-founder Head, 68, is now only a rare sight in the F1 paddock, having effectively retired from the sport.

But he was spotted during the British grand prix weekend, telling Germany's Auto Motor und Sport that dominant Mercedes is doing "the right thing" by letting Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg go wheel-to-wheel rather than imposing team orders.

"A team that is so dominant," Head said, "has a duty to the sport.

"Williams and McLaren know that, and we always did, often at a high price.

"Only Ferrari in the Schumacher era believed that it was bigger than the sport," the Briton added.

Meanwhile, Head said he is happy with his life post F1, answering "no chance" when asked if he might be considering a return.

"I'm going sailing now," he grinned.

Hockenheim ticket discount offer backfires
(GMM) A marketing gimmick has backfired ahead of next weekend's German grand prix.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said a EUR 11 ticket discount was being offered for every goal scored by the national team in its world cup semi-final against Brazil.

'Die Mannschaft' then stunned the world by humiliating Brazil with a staggering final score of 7:1. It means a EUR 77 discount per ticket in the six highest categories for the German grand prix.

"The inventor of the campaign probably had not imagined such a result," said Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt.

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